FULLERTON, Calif. - The Hope International men's volleyball team won its first match of the season in its home-opener in Darling Pavilion Wednesday night against Saint Katherine, as the Royals beat the Firebirds 3-1 behind 22 kills from Joshua Nehls (SR/Downey, CA) and 34 assists from Brandon Holderbach Lee (SR/Lancaster, CA).

"We are so grateful to be back on the court, fighting in our gym, and playing volleyball, the sport we love," said Head Coach Henry Valiente Jr. "Seeing our guys really perform at a high level really was a positive thing. It's going to be a crazy, crazy short season, but our guys are really looking forward to fighting this season."

The Royals started out slow in the first set but picked up their momentum throughout the set and kept it for the remainder of the match, the Royals dropped the first set 25-23.  

The Royals dominated the second and third sets as they took the lead in the second set at 2-3 and never looked back, they closed out the second set with a score of 14-25. In the third set, the Royals carried their intensity from the second set to jump on the Firebirds early for a 4-0 lead. The Royals continued to attack offensively as they went up by as many as 13 points to take the third set 13-25. The Royals hitting percentage in the third set was the best of the night (.562), with 10 kills on 16 total attempts. 

The fourth set was neck and neck as the Firebirds offense started to come to life. The game was tied twelve times in the fourth set, and HIU finally gained back the lead on a kill from Tyler Peck (SR/Huntington Beach, CA) which gave the Royals a 15-16 lead. The Royals would end up scoring the next two points to give them their biggest lead of the set, but the Firebirds answered back with four straight points of their own for another lead change. The Royals would end up taking the set 23-25 with help from four straight kills from Joshua Nehls

Joshua Nehls led in kills with 22. Brandon Holderbach Lee led the team with 34 assists, while Bradyn Hipa (SO/Kailua, HI) led the team with 15 digs. Chase Larson (SR/Henderson, NV) had one four total blocks on the night. 

The Royals will hit the road on February 10th as they open up conference play against Vanguard at 7:00 PM.